Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 1 Opinion of the Court NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash- ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES _________________ No. 08–305 _________________ FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DISTRICT, PETITIONER v. T. A. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT [June 22, 2009] JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEAor Act), 84 Stat. 175, as amended, 20 U. S. C. §1400 et seq.,requires States receiving federal funding to make a “freeappropriate public education” (FAPE) available to allchildren with disabilities residing in the State,§1412(a)(1)(A). We have previously held that when apublic school fails to provide a FAPE and a child’s parentsplace the child in an appropriate private school withoutthe school district’s consent, a court may require the dis-trict to reimburse the parents for the cost of the privateeducation. See School Comm. of Burlington v. Departmentof Ed. of Mass., 471 U. S. 359, 370 (1985). The questionpresented in this case is whether the IDEA Amendmentsof 1997 (Amendments), 111 Stat. 37, categorically prohibitreimbursement for private-education costs if a child hasnot “previously received special education and relatedservices under the authority of a public agency.”§1412(a)(10)(C)(ii). We hold that the Amendments imposeno such categorical bar.
2 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Court I Respondent T. A. attended public schools in the ForestGrove School District (School District or District) from thetime he was in kindergarten through the winter of hisjunior year of high school. From kindergarten througheighth grade, respondent’s teachers observed that he hadtrouble paying attention in class and completing his as-signments. When respondent entered high school, hisdifficulties increased. In December 2000, during respondent’s freshman year,his mother contacted the school counselor to discuss re-spondent’s problems with his schoolwork. At the end ofthe school year, respondent was evaluated by a schoolpsychologist. After interviewing him, examining hisschool records, and administering cognitive ability tests,the psychologist concluded that respondent did not needfurther testing for any learning disabilities or other healthimpairments, including attention deficit hyperactivitydisorder (ADHD). The psychologist and two other schoolofficials discussed the evaluation results with respondent’smother in June 2001, and all agreed that respondent didnot qualify for special-education services. Respondent’sparents did not seek review of that decision, although thehearing examiner later found that the School District’sevaluation was legally inadequate because it failed toaddress all areas of suspected disability, including ADHD. With extensive help from his family, respondent com-pleted his sophomore year at Forest Grove High School,but his problems worsened during his junior year. InFebruary 2003, respondent’s parents discussed with theSchool District the possibility of respondent completinghigh school through a partnership program with the localcommunity college. They also sought private professionaladvice, and in March 2003 respondent was diagnosed withADHD and a number of disabilities related to learning andmemory. Advised by the private specialist that respon-
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 3 Opinion of the Courtdent would do best in a structured, residential learningenvironment, respondent’s parents enrolled him at aprivate academy that focuses on educating children withspecial needs. Four days after enrolling him in private school, respon-dent’s parents hired a lawyer to ascertain their rights andto give the School District written notice of respondent’sprivate placement. A few weeks later, in April 2003,respondent’s parents requested an administrative dueprocess hearing regarding respondent’s eligibility forspecial-education services. In June 2003, the Districtengaged a school psychologist to assist in determiningwhether respondent had a disability that significantlyinterfered with his educational performance. Respon-dent’s parents cooperated with the District during theevaluation process. In July 2003, a multidisciplinary teammet to discuss whether respondent satisfied IDEA’s dis-ability criteria and concluded that he did not because hisADHD did not have a sufficiently significant adverseimpact on his educational performance. Because theSchool District maintained that respondent was not eligi-ble for special-education services and therefore declined toprovide an individualized education program (IEP),1 re-spondent’s parents left him enrolled at the private acad-emy for his senior year. The administrative review process resumed in Septem-ber 2003. After considering the parties’ evidence, includ-ing the testimony of numerous experts, the hearing officerissued a decision in January 2004 finding that respon-dent’s ADHD adversely affected his educational perform-ance and that the School District failed to meet its obliga-—————— 1 An IEP is an education plan tailored to a child’s unique needs that isdesigned by the school district in consultation with the child’s parentsafter the child is identified as eligible for special-education services.See 20 U. S. C. §§1412(a)(4), 1414(d).
4 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Courttions under IDEA in not identifying respondent as a stu-dent eligible for special-education services. Because theDistrict did not offer respondent a FAPE and his private-school placement was appropriate under IDEA, the hear-ing officer ordered the District to reimburse respondent’sparents for the cost of the private-school tuition.2 The School District sought judicial review pursuant to§1415(i)(2), arguing that the hearing officer erred in grant-ing reimbursement. The District Court accepted thehearing officer’s findings of fact but set aside the reim-bursement award after finding that the 1997 Amendmentscategorically bar reimbursement of private-school tuitionfor students who have not “previously received specialeducation and related services under the authority of apublic agency.” §612(a)(10)(C)(ii), 111 Stat. 63, 20 U. S. C.§1412(a)(10)(C)(ii). The District Court further held that,“[e]ven assuming that tuition reimbursement may beordered in an extreme case for a student not receivingspecial education services, under general principles ofequity where the need for special education was obvious toschool authorities,” the facts of this case do not supportequitable relief. App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed andremanded for further proceedings. The court first notedthat, prior to the 1997 Amendments, “IDEA was silent onthe subject of private school reimbursement, but courtshad granted such reimbursement as ‘appropriate’ reliefunder principles of equity pursuant to 20 U. S. C.§1415(i)(2)(C).” 523 F. 3d 1078, 1085 (2008) (citing Bur-lington, 471 U. S., at 370). It then held that the Amend-ments do not impose a categorical bar to reimbursement—————— 2 Althoughit was respondent’s parents who initially sought reim-bursement, when respondent reached the age of majority in 2003 hisparents’ rights under IDEA transferred to him pursuant to Ore. Admin.Rule 581–015–2325(1) (2008).
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 5 Opinion of the Courtwhen a parent unilaterally places in private school a childwho has not previously received special-education servicesthrough the public school. Rather, such students “areeligible for reimbursement, to the same extent as beforethe 1997 amendments, as ‘appropriate’ relief pursuant to§1415(i)(2)(C).” 523 F. 3d, at 1087–1088. The Court of Appeals also rejected the District Court’sanalysis of the equities as resting on two legal errors.First, because it found that §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) generallybars relief in these circumstances, the District Courtwrongly stated that relief was appropriate only if theequities were sufficient to “ ‘override’ ” that statutory limi-tation. The District Court also erred in asserting thatreimbursement is limited to “ ‘extreme’ ” cases. Id., at 1088(emphasis deleted). The Court of Appeals therefore re-manded with instructions to reexamine the equities, in-cluding the failure of respondent’s parents to notify theSchool District before removing respondent from publicschool. In dissent, Judge Rymer stated her view thatreimbursement is not available as an equitable remedy inthis case because respondent’s parents did not request anIEP before removing him from public school and respon-dent’s right to a FAPE was therefore not at issue. Because the Courts of Appeals that have considered thisquestion have reached inconsistent results,3 we grantedcertiorari to determine whether §1412(a)(10)(C) estab-lishes a categorical bar to tuition reimbursement for stu-dents who have not previously received special-educationservices under the authority of a public education agency.—————— 3 Compare Frank G. v. Board of Ed. of Hyde Park, 459 F. 3d 356, 376(CA2 2006) (holding that §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) does not bar reimburse-ment for students who have not previously received public special-education services), and M. M. v. School Bd. of Miami-Dade Cty., Fla.,437 F. 3d 1085, 1099 (CA11 2006) (per curiam) (same), with GreenlandSchool Dist. v. Amy N., 358 F. 3d 150, 159–160 (CA1 2004) (findingreimbursement barred in those circumstances).
6 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Court555 U. S. ___ (2009).4 II Justice Rehnquist’s opinion for a unanimous Court inBurlington provides the pertinent background for ouranalysis of the question presented. In that case, respon-dent challenged the appropriateness of the IEP developedfor his child by public-school officials. The child had pre-viously received special-education services through thepublic school. While administrative review was pending,private specialists advised respondent that the child woulddo best in a specialized private educational setting, andrespondent enrolled the child in private school without theschool district’s consent. The hearing officer concludedthat the IEP was not adequate to meet the child’s educa-tional needs and that the school district therefore failed toprovide the child a FAPE. Finding also that the private-school placement was appropriate under IDEA, the hear-ing officer ordered the school district to reimburse respon-dent for the cost of the private-school tuition. We granted certiorari in Burlington to determinewhether IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost ofprivate education when a parent or guardian unilaterallyenrolls a child in private school because the public schoolhas proposed an inadequate IEP and thus failed to providea FAPE. The Act at that time made no express referenceto the possibility of reimbursement, but it authorized acourt to “grant such relief as the court determines is ap-propriate.” §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii).5 In determining the scope—————— 4 We previously granted certiorari to address this question in Boardof Ed. of City School Dist. of New York v. Tom F., 552 U. S. 1 (2007), inwhich we affirmed without opinion the judgment of the Court of Ap-peals for the Second Circuit by an equally divided vote. 5 At the time we decided Burlington, that provision was codified at§1415(e)(2). The 1997 Amendments renumbered the provision but didnot alter its text. For ease of reference, we refer to the provision by itscurrent section number, §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii).
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 7 Opinion of the Courtof the relief authorized, we noted that “the ordinary mean-ing of these words confers broad discretion on the court”and that, absent any indication to the contrary, what reliefis “appropriate” must be determined in light of the Act’sbroad purpose of providing children with disabilities aFAPE, including through publicly funded private-schoolplacements when necessary. 471 U. S., at 369. Accord-ingly, we held that the provision’s grant of authority in-cludes “the power to order school authorities to reimburseparents for their expenditures on private special-educationservices if the court ultimately determines that such place-ment, rather than a proposed IEP, is proper under theAct.” Ibid. Our decision rested in part on the fact that administra-tive and judicial review of a parent’s complaint often takesyears. We concluded that, having mandated that partici-pating States provide a FAPE for every student, Congresscould not have intended to require parents to either acceptan inadequate public-school education pending adjudica-tion of their claim or bear the cost of a private education ifthe court ultimately determined that the private place-ment was proper under the Act. Id., at 370. Eight yearslater, we unanimously reaffirmed the availability of reim-bursement in Florence County School Dist. Four v. Carter,510 U. S. 7 (1993) (holding that reimbursement may beappropriate even when a child is placed in a private schoolthat has not been approved by the State). The dispute giving rise to the present litigation differsfrom those in Burlington and Carter in that it concerns notthe adequacy of a proposed IEP but the School District’sfailure to provide an IEP at all. And, unlike respondent,the children in those cases had previously received publicspecial-education services. These differences are insignifi-cant, however, because our analysis in the earlier casesdepended on the language and purpose of the Act and notthe particular facts involved. Moreover, when a child
8 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Courtrequires special-education services, a school district’sfailure to propose an IEP of any kind is at least as seriousa violation of its responsibilities under IDEA as a failureto provide an adequate IEP. It is thus clear that thereasoning of Burlington and Carter applies equally to thiscase. The only question is whether the 1997 Amendmentsrequire a different result. III Congress enacted IDEA in 19706 to ensure that allchildren with disabilities are provided “ ‘a free appropriatepublic education which emphasizes special education andrelated services designed to meet their unique needs [and]to assure that the rights of [such] children and their par-ents or guardians are protected.’ ” Burlington, 471 U. S.,at 367 (quoting 20 U. S. C. §1400(c) (1982 ed.), now codi-fied as amended at §§1400(d)(1)(A), (B)). After examiningthe States’ progress under IDEA, Congress found in 1997that substantial gains had been made in the area of spe-cial education but that more needed to be done to guaran-tee children with disabilities adequate access to appropri-ate services. See S. Rep. No. 105–17, p. 5 (1997). The1997 Amendments were intended “to place greater em-phasis on improving student performance and ensuringthat children with disabilities receive a quality publiceducation.” Id., at 3. Consistent with that goal, the Amendments preservedthe Act’s purpose of providing a FAPE to all children withdisabilities. And they did not change the text of the provi-sion we considered in Burlington, §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), whichgives courts broad authority to grant “appropriate” relief,including reimbursement for the cost of private special—————— 6 Thelegislation was enacted as the Education of the HandicappedAct, title VI of Pub. L. 91–230, 84 Stat. 175, and was renamed theIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990, see §901(a)(3),Pub. L. 101–476, 104 Stat. 1142.
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 9 Opinion of the Courteducation when a school district fails to provide a FAPE.“Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative orjudicial interpretation of a statute and to adopt that inter-pretation when it re-enacts a statute without change.”Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U. S. 575, 580 (1978). Accordingly,absent a clear expression elsewhere in the Amendments ofCongress’ intent to repeal some portion of that provision orto abrogate our decisions in Burlington and Carter, we willcontinue to read §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) to authorize the reliefrespondent seeks. The School District and the dissent argue that one of theprovisions enacted by the Amendments, §1412(a)(10)(C),effects such a repeal. Section 1412(a)(10)(C) is entitled“Payment for education of children enrolled in privateschools without consent of or referral by the publicagency,” and it sets forth a number of principles applicableto public reimbursement for the costs of unilateral private-school placements. Section 1412(a)(10)(C)(i) states thatIDEA “does not require a local educational agency to payfor the cost of education . . . of a child with a disability at aprivate school or facility if that agency made a free appro-priate public education available to the child” and hisparents nevertheless elected to place him in a privateschool. Section 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) then provides that a“court or hearing officer may require [a public] agency toreimburse the parents for the cost of [private-school]enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that theagency had not made a free appropriate public educationavailable” and the child has “previously received specialeducation and related services under the authority of [the]agency.” Finally, §1412(a)(10)(C)(iii) discusses circum-stances under which the “cost of reimbursement describedin clause (ii) may be reduced or denied,” as when a parentfails to give 10 days’ notice before removing a child frompublic school or refuses to make a child available forevaluation, and §1412(a)(10)(C)(iv) lists circumstances in
10 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Courtwhich a parent’s failure to give notice may or must beexcused.7 Looking primarily to clauses (i) and (ii), the SchoolDistrict argues that Congress intended §1412(a)(10)(C) toprovide the exclusive source of authority for courts toorder reimbursement when parents unilaterally enroll achild in private school. According to the District, clause (i)provides a safe harbor for school districts that provide aFAPE by foreclosing reimbursement in those circum-stances. Clause (ii) then sets forth the circumstance inwhich reimbursement is appropriate—namely, when aschool district fails to provide a FAPE to a child who haspreviously received special-education services through thepublic school. The District contends that because§1412(a)(10)(C) only discusses reimbursement for childrenwho have previously received special-education servicesthrough the public school, IDEA only authorizes reim-bursement in that circumstance. The dissent agrees. For several reasons, we find this argument unpersua-sive. First, the School District’s reading of the Act is notsupported by its text and context, as the 1997 Amend-ments do not expressly prohibit reimbursement under thecircumstances of this case, and the District offers no evi-dence that Congress intended to supersede our decisionsin Burlington and Carter. Clause (i)’s safe harbor explic-itly bars reimbursement only when a school district makesa FAPE available by correctly identifying a child as havinga disability and proposing an IEP adequate to meet thechild’s needs. The clause says nothing about the availabil-ity of reimbursement when a school district fails to providea FAPE. Indeed, its statement that reimbursement is notauthorized when a school district provides a FAPE couldbe read to indicate that reimbursement is authorized—————— 7 The full text of §1412(a)(10)(C) is set forth in the Appendix, infra,at 18.
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 11 Opinion of the Courtwhen a school district does not fulfill that obligation. Clause (ii) likewise does not support the District’s posi-tion. Because that clause is phrased permissively, statingonly that courts “may require” reimbursement in thosecircumstances, it does not foreclose reimbursementawards in other circumstances. Together with clauses (iii)and (iv), clause (ii) is best read as elaborating on the gen-eral rule that courts may order reimbursement when aschool district fails to provide a FAPE by listing factorsthat may affect a reimbursement award in the commonsituation in which a school district has provided a childwith some special-education services and the child’s par-ents believe those services are inadequate. Referring asthey do to students who have previously received special-education services through a public school, clauses (ii)through (iv) are premised on a history of cooperation andtogether encourage school districts and parents to con-tinue to cooperate in developing and implementing anappropriate IEP before resorting to a unilateral privateplacement.8 The clauses of §1412(a)(10)(C) are thus bestread as elucidative rather than exhaustive. Cf. United—————— 8 The dissent asserts that, under this reading of the Act, “Congresshas called for reducing reimbursement only for the most deserving . . .but provided no mechanism to reduce reimbursement to the leastdeserving.” Post, at 6 (opinion of SOUTER, J.). In addition to makingunsubstantiated generalizations about the desert of parents whosechildren have been denied public special-education services, the dissentgrossly mischaracterizes our view of §1412(a)(10)(C). The fact thatclause (iii) permits a court to reduce a reimbursement award when aparent whose child has previously received special-education servicesfails to give the school adequate notice of an intended private place-ment does not mean that it prohibits courts from similarly reducing theamount of reimbursement when a parent whose child has not previ-ously received services fails to give such notice. Like clause (ii), clause(iii) provides guidance regarding the appropriateness of relief in acommon factual scenario, and its instructions should not be understoodto preclude courts and hearing officers from considering similar factorsin other scenarios.
12 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the CourtStates v. Atlantic Research Corp., 551 U. S. 128, 137(2007) (noting that statutory language may “perfor[m] asignificant function simply by clarifying” a provision’smeaning).9 This reading of §1412(a)(10)(C) is necessary to avoid theconclusion that Congress abrogated sub silentio our deci-sions in Burlington and Carter. In those cases, we con-strued §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) to authorize reimbursement whena school district fails to provide a FAPE and a child’sprivate-school placement is appropriate, without regard tothe child’s prior receipt of services.10 It would take morethan Congress’ failure to comment on the category of casesin which a child has not previously received special-education services for us to conclude that the Amendmentssubstantially superseded our decisions and in large part—————— 9 In arguing that §1412(a)(10)(C) is the exclusive source of authorityfor granting reimbursement awards to parents who unilaterally place achild in private school, the dissent neglects to explain that provision’sfailure to limit the type of private-school placements for which parentsmay be reimbursed. School Comm. of Burlington v. Department of Ed.of Mass. held that courts may grant reimbursement under§1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) only when a school district fails to provide a FAPEand the private-school placement is appropriate. See 471 U. S. 359,369 (1985); see Florence County School Dist. Four v. Carter, 510 U. S. 7,12–13 (1993). The latter requirement is essential to ensuring thatreimbursement awards are granted only when such relief furthers thepurposes of the Act. See Burlington, 471 U. S., at 369. That§1412(a)(10)(C) did not codify that requirement further indicates thatCongress did not intend that provision to supplant §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) asthe sole authority on reimbursement awards but rather meant toaugment the latter provision and our decisions construing it. 10 As discussed above, although the children in Burlington and Carterhad previously received special-education services in public school, ourdecisions in no way depended on their prior receipt of services. Thoseholdings rested instead on the breadth of the authority conferred by§1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), the interest in providing relief consistent with theAct’s purpose, and the injustice that a contrary reading would produce,see Burlington, 471 U. S., at 369–370; see also Carter, 510 U. S., at 12–14—considerations that were not altered by the 1997 Amendments.
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 13 Opinion of the Courtrepealed §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii). See Branch v. Smith, 538U. S. 254, 273 (2003) (“[A]bsent a clearly expressed con-gressional intention, repeals by implication are not fa-vored” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).11We accordingly adopt the reading of §1412(a)(10)(C) thatis consistent with those decisions.12 The School District’s reading of §1412(a)(10)(C) is alsoat odds with the general remedial purpose underlyingIDEA and the 1997 Amendments. The express purpose ofthe Act is to “ensure that all children with disabilitieshave available to them a free appropriate public education—————— 11 For the same reason, we reject the District’s argument that because§1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) authorizes “a court or a hearing officer” to awardreimbursement for private-school tuition, whereas §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii)only provides a general grant of remedial authority to “court[s],” thelatter section cannot be read to authorize hearing officers to awardreimbursement. That argument ignores our decision in Burlington, 471U. S., at 363, 370, which interpreted §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) to authorizehearing officers as well as courts to award reimbursement notwith-standing the provision’s silence with regard to hearing officers. WhenCongress amended IDEA without altering the text of §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii),it implicitly adopted that construction of the statute. See Lorillard v.Pons, 434 U. S. 575, 580–581 (1978). 12 Looking to the Amendments’ legislative history for support, theSchool District cites two House and Senate Reports that essentiallyrestate the text of §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii), H. R. Rep. No. 105–95, pp. 92–93(1997); S. Rep. No. 105–17, p. 13 (1997), and a floor statement byRepresentative Mike Castle, 143 Cong. Rec. 8013 (1997) (stating thatthe “bill makes it harder for parents to unilaterally place a child in eliteprivate schools at public taxpayer expense, lowering costs to localschool districts”). Those ambiguous references do not undermine themeaning that we discern from the statute’s language and context. Notably, the agency charged with implementing IDEA has adoptedrespondent’s reading of the statute. In commentary to regulationsimplementing the 1997 Amendments, the Department of Educationstated that “hearing officers and courts retain their authority, recog-nized in Burlington . . . to award ‘appropriate’ relief if a public agencyhas failed to provide FAPE, including reimbursement . . . in instancesin which the child has not yet received special education and relatedservices.” 64 Fed. Reg. 12602 (1999); see 71 Fed. Reg. 46599 (2006).
14 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Courtthat emphasizes special education and related servicesdesigned to meet their unique needs,” §1400(d)(1)(A)—afactor we took into account in construing the scope of§1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), see Burlington, 471 U. S., at 369. With-out the remedy respondent seeks, a “child’s right to a freeappropriate education . . . would be less than complete.”Id., at 370. The District’s position similarly conflicts withIDEA’s “child find” requirement, pursuant to which Statesare obligated to “identif[y], locat[e], and evaluat[e]” “[a]llchildren with disabilities residing in the State” to ensurethat they receive needed special-education services.§1412(a)(3)(A); see §1412(a)(10)(A)(ii). A reading of theAct that left parents without an adequate remedy when aschool district unreasonably failed to identify a child withdisabilities would not comport with Congress’ acknowl-edgment of the paramount importance of properly identi-fying each child eligible for services. Indeed, by immunizing a school district’s refusal to finda child eligible for special-education services no matterhow compelling the child’s need, the School District’sinterpretation of §1412(a)(10)(C) would produce a rulebordering on the irrational. It would be particularlystrange for the Act to provide a remedy, as all agree itdoes, when a school district offers a child inadequatespecial-education services but to leave parents withoutrelief in the more egregious situation in which the schooldistrict unreasonably denies a child access to such servicesaltogether. That IDEA affords parents substantial proce-dural safeguards, including the right to challenge a schooldistrict’s eligibility determination and obtain prospectiverelief, see post, at 11, is no answer. We roundly rejectedthat argument in Burlington, observing that the “reviewprocess is ponderous” and therefore inadequate to ensurethat a school’s failure to provide a FAPE is remedied withthe speed necessary to avoid detriment to the child’s edu-cation. 471 U. S., at 370. Like Burlington, see ibid., this
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 15 Opinion of the Courtcase vividly demonstrates the problem of delay, as respon-dent’s parents first sought a due process hearing in April2003, and the District Court issued its decision in May2005—almost a year after respondent graduated fromhigh school. The dissent all but ignores these shortcom-ings of IDEA’s procedural safeguards. IV The School District advances two additional argumentsfor reading the Act to foreclose reimbursement in thiscase. First, the District contends that because IDEA wasan exercise of Congress’ authority under the SpendingClause, U. S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 1, any conditions at-tached to a State’s acceptance of funds must be statedunambiguously. See Pennhurst State School and Hospitalv. Halderman, 451 U. S. 1, 17 (1981). Applying that prin-ciple, we held in Arlington Central School Dist. Bd. of Ed.v. Murphy, 548 U. S. 291, 304 (2006), that IDEA’s fee-shifting provision, §1415(i)(3)(B), does not authorize courtsto award expert-services fees to prevailing parents inIDEA actions because the Act does not put States onnotice of the possibility of such awards. But Arlington isreadily distinguishable from this case. In accepting IDEAfunding, States expressly agree to provide a FAPE to allchildren with disabilities. See §1412(a)(1)(A). An orderawarding reimbursement of private-education costs whena school district fails to provide a FAPE merely requiresthe district “to belatedly pay expenses that it should havepaid all along.” Burlington, 471 U. S., at 370–371. AndStates have in any event been on notice at least since ourdecision in Burlington that IDEA authorizes courts toorder reimbursement of the costs of private special-education services in appropriate circumstances. Penn-hurst’s notice requirement is thus clearly satisfied. Finally, the District urges that respondent’s reading ofthe Act will impose a substantial financial burden on
16 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Courtpublic school districts and encourage parents to immedi-ately enroll their children in private school without firstendeavoring to cooperate with the school district. Thedissent echoes this concern. See post, at 10. For severalreasons, those fears are unfounded. Parents “are entitledto reimbursement only if a federal court concludes boththat the public placement violated IDEA and the privateschool placement was proper under the Act.” Carter, 510U. S., at 15. And even then courts retain discretion toreduce the amount of a reimbursement award if the equi-ties so warrant—for instance, if the parents failed to givethe school district adequate notice of their intent to enrollthe child in private school. In considering the equities,courts should generally presume that public-school offi-cials are properly performing their obligations underIDEA. See Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U. S. 49, 62–63 (2005)(STEVENS, J., concurring). As a result of these criteria andthe fact that parents who “ ‘unilaterally change theirchild’s placement during the pendency of review proceed-ings, without the consent of state or local school officials,do so at their own financial risk,’ ” Carter, 510 U. S., at 15(quoting Burlington, 471 U. S., at 373–374), the incidenceof private-school placement at public expense is quitesmall, see Brief for National Disability Rights Networket al. as Amici Curiae 13–14. V The IDEA Amendments of 1997 did not modify the textof §1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), and we do not read §1412(a)(10)(C) toalter that provision’s meaning. Consistent with our deci-sions in Burlington and Carter, we conclude that IDEAauthorizes reimbursement for the cost of private special-education services when a school district fails to provide aFAPE and the private-school placement is appropriate,regardless of whether the child previously received specialeducation or related services through the public school.
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 17 Opinion of the Court When a court or hearing officer concludes that a schooldistrict failed to provide a FAPE and the private place-ment was suitable, it must consider all relevant factors,including the notice provided by the parents and theschool district’s opportunities for evaluating the child, indetermining whether reimbursement for some or all of thecost of the child’s private education is warranted. As theCourt of Appeals noted, the District Court did not properlyconsider the equities in this case and will need to under-take that analysis on remand. Accordingly, the judgmentof the Court of Appeals is affirmed. It is so ordered.
18 FOREST GROVE SCHOOL DIST. v. T. A. Opinion of the Court Appendix to opinion of the Court APPENDIX Title 20 U. S. C. §1412(a)(10)(C) provides:“(C) Payment for education of children enrolled in privateschools without consent of or referral by the public agency “(i) In general “Subject to subparagraph (A), this subchapter does not require a local educational agency to pay for the cost of education, including special education and related services, of a child with a disability at a private school or facility if that agency made a free appropriate public education available to the child and the parents elected to place the child in such private school or facility. “(ii) Reimbursement for private school placement “If the parents of a child with a disability, who previ- ously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency, enroll the child in a private elementary school or secondary school with- out the consent of or referral by the public agency, a court or a hearing officer may require the agency to re- imburse the parents for the cost of that enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that the agency had not made a free appropriate public education available to the child in a timely manner prior to that enrollment. “(iii) Limitation on reimbursement “The cost of reimbursement described in clause (ii) may be reduced or denied— “(I) if— “(aa) at the most recent IEP meeting that the par- ents attended prior to removal of the child from the public school, the parents did not inform the IEP Team that they were rejecting the placement pro- posed by the public agency to provide a free appro- priate public education to their child, including stat- ing their concerns and their intent to enroll their
Cite as: 557 U. S. ____ (2009) 19 Opinion of the Court Appendix to opinion of the Court child in a private school at public expense; or “(bb) 10 business days (including any holidays that occur on a business day) prior to the removal of the child from the public school, the parents did not give written notice to the public agency of the in- formation described in item (aa); “(II) if, prior to the parents’ removal of the childfrom the public school, the public agency informed theparents, through the notice requirements described insection 1415(b)(3) of this title, of its intent to evaluatethe child (including a statement of the purpose of theevaluation that was appropriate and reasonable), butthe parents did not make the child available for suchevaluation; or “(III) upon a judicial finding of unreasonablenesswith respect to actions taken by the parents.”